Columnists, Sports

Fish and Chipps: A proper perspective on Johnny Manziel

In 1997, Apple Inc. launched an advertising campaign called “Think Different.” In a last ditch attempt to save the company from bankruptcy, newly reappointed CEO Steve Jobs created the famous campaign to show the world that sometimes the “crazy ones” are also the “game changers.”

Earlier this month, Texas A&M University quarterback Johnny Manziel officially declared himself eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft.

To no one’s surprise, Manziel’s two seasons in College Station were more than enough for him in an Aggie’s uniform. From the on-the-field theatrics, to the off-field nightclub partying, to the alleged illegal autograph signings, Manziel’s college career was anything but a fairy tale.

However, amidst Manziel’s entourage, sense of entitlement and controversial Twitter fights, his two years as a student-athlete have forever changed the landscape of college football, for better or for worse.

First and foremost, Manziel’s on-field success was second to none in the college football ranks. In his time at Texas A&M, Manziel virtually broke every school passing record and holds the top two Southeastern Conference records for total yards in a season (5,116 and 4,873).

He became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and went 20-6 as the Aggie’s starting quarterback in his two seasons, most notably defeating 2012 National Champion University of Alabama on the road during his freshman campaign.

But you can’t simply judge Manziel by the numbers. Yes, he was dominant and deadly with a football in his hands, but it’s the way in which he went about it that made him so unique.

He played the game ruthlessly, unorthodoxly and with a fiery passion. At times it looked like he was playing dodge ball instead of football, following the five steps to dodge ball success (dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge).  He had the instincts of a tiger, and could sense a blind side pass rusher like none other. He could spin away from defenders, seamlessly avoid 300-pound linemen, jump over far more athletic linebackers and still throw a beautiful 50-yard touchdown pass right into the hands of his intended receiver. Manziel was a master of nothing, but a jack-of-everything.

In spite of his perceived “lack of pure quarterback ability,” Manziel had a better adjusted Total Quarterback Rating, threw more touchdown passes and threw for more passing yards than top NFL quarterback prospect Teddy Bridgewater, despite playing in college football’s toughest conference, the SEC.

By officially declaring for the NFL Draft, Manziel leaves behind his legacy and his resume to the college game. It will be up to the critics to decide if “Johnny Football” gets enshrined among college football’s finest. Is he just another fad that will fade like many before him? Or will his trademark nickname, fancy theatrics and his unique style of play be remembered for generations to come?

Although Manziel caused more headaches than joy for Texas A&M’s public relations department, there is no doubt that he forever changed the perception of Aggie football, while in the process taking the definition of “student-athlete” to an even more questionable meaning.

While Manziel was arguing with fans, haters and followers on Twitter, A&M was profiting millions of dollars from their quarterback’s persona. A&M may have publically discouraged Manziel’s questionable decision making, but inside the messed up world of college sports we all know, they loved every minute of it, and reaped its benefits.

I’ve never loved Johnny Manziel, but I’ve never hated him either. I think he is cocky, arrogant and has no respect for authority. However, I have always respected Manziel. I love his passion for the game, his style of play, and his relentlessness to prove doubters and critics wrong. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, puts his head down first instead of taking the easy slide, and fights for every first down like it may be the last play of his football career.

As much as analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay might try to convince you that Manziel will play with the same unique style in the NFL as he did in college, they’re lying to you. The NFL isn’t meant for quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel. Coaches will toy with his game to make it suitable for owners to sleep at night knowing their franchise quarterback won’t be as gutsy in the fourth quarter as he was in the first quarter. Sadly, that’s the NFL.

But don’t let that take away from your perspective of his college career. Manziel is a trendsetter, an innovator and a game changer. You can quote him, disagree with him, glorify him or vilify him. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore him.

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